So you read about Global Entry, the newish US Customs and Border Protection program that lets pre-screened travelers skip the customs lines when they reenter the country, and were like, "Hot damn! Background check me to death!"
And after filling out your online application, you waited a few days before getting that little jolt of excitement when your GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) account had a message asking you to schedule an interview. But wait, an interview? From customs? Surely that must entail sitting in a dimly lit room and being grilled by a crusty old agent who keeps blowing smoke in your face, right? "Did you smuggle a kiwi into the country in 2003 on your way back from Chile? DID YOU!?!?!"
Well, not exactly. While the interview is an integral part of getting your Global Entry approval, it’s not exactly a scene cut from Law & Order either. A number of Thrillist staffers have been through the process and gave us the lowdown on what to expect.
1. You're almost already approved when you get there
Once you get into the interview room, you’ve already been pre-screened to ensure you’re not on any international watch lists, terror-threat lists, or just general, the-US government-doesn’t-like-you lists. Sometimes they even have your pre-printed approval paper face down on the desk when you walk in. (Just don't be all like, "Hey, is that my approval in front of you? Come on, you can tell me.") So once you get the call, the hard part is over. It’s not a job interview, just go in and relax.
2. They're not going to ask you much
Aside from basic biographical information (name, birthdate, address, etc.), questions should be limited to the following:
- Why do you want to join Global Entry?
- Who is your employer?
- What is your profession?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you ever had an issue at customs or border patrol?
They already know the answers to ALL of these questions, so this is more of an integrity check. Don’t lie or try to be funny, and you should be just fine.
3. Have all of your paperwork lined up
There may be a few situations, however, that need clarification: were you ever arrested but had the charges dropped? Have you traveled to a restricted country (like Cuba) but had a legal reason to be there? They likely don’t have proof that the charges were dropped, or that you were on a humanitarian mission, so you’re on the hook to provide accurate documentation. If you fail to bring the paperwork with you, it could delay your approval.
4. Know your criminal history
Global Entry doesn’t delve too deep into your criminal record, and having one won’t immediately disqualify you. Which means you may get an interview request, only to be turned down on the spot when they learn you’ve been convicted or pled guilty to a misdemeanor in the past 10 years. So don’t waste your time. If you’re unsure whether that game-day public urination incident was an infraction or a misdemeanor, look into it before you even apply.
5. They're going to take your picture
If approved, you'll receive a nifty ID card (complete with a picture taken during your interview) in the mail within a few days. So, if you’d like it to look better than your passport and drivers license photos, dress nice. Or at least don't wear a hat.
6. The interview is short, but you could be there a while
Like we said, they only ask you a handful of questions; if you’ve got nothing interesting to explain, the whole thing takes less time than an oil change. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be there for a while. You’re not the only one with a 4pm appointment on a Friday, so be prepared to wait 45 minutes to an hour if you go during a busy time. If you can take a half-day off work and go mid-morning Tuesday to Thursday, you won’t have a lot of company. Also, airport locations typically see fewer applicants than city offices.
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist and is looking forward to being that smug bastard who breezes through customs. But since phones are illegal in that area, you won’t see any pictures of it on Instagram: @meltrez1.